PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- There are new policies at the Oxford Street Shelter aimed at placing more people in permanent housing.
Maine Housing recently released the results of the annual Point In Time homelessness survey. The city of Portland wasn't surprised to see that its numbers were up from the previous year. But the city is working with shelters to curb that increase. Portland's Health and Human Services Department has implemented significant changes at the city's shelters. Oxford Street Shelter clients are now required to meet with shelter employees about their plans to find permanent housing. There are also mental health professionals on hand every night.
The program went into affect in January. That month, 37 Oxford Street clients were placed in permanent housing. In February that number climbed to 46. In March it increased to 54, and last month 61 people found housing.
"They're packing up their things, they're picking up their bed or their couch, and so that's noticed and we get a lot of people coming in and saying, 'Jim just moved last week, and how did he do that? I want to do that too,'" Oxford Street Shelter Director Josh O'Brien said.
The Point In Time survey also found more people than the city expected were camping rather than using the shelter over the winter. O'Brien says shelter workers are now determining how to address that problem, as the numbers grow over the summer months.